Friday, February 22, 2013

A Bizarre Rendering of a Familiar Design

Dale Beebe was set up right across the aisle from me at the Ohio Show this year. He had this one sitting on his table and I looked at it all weekend. It’s not exactly something that fits in with my collection, I told myself. It’s too expensive, I told myself.

But then myself kept arguing back. It’s just way too cool, myself pleaded. You didn’t come to the Ohio Show to NOT spend money, myself begged. Besides, you know what a cool story this one will make at the blog, myself said, and who knows if you’ll ever see another one? Now there was a little bit of a whine in my voice.

Dale wouldn’t budge on the price. In the last couple hours of the show, I caved and paid it. Here it is:

This is a massive writing instrument, measuring almost eight inches long:

At the top end there’s a few little ports and a screw on the top:

And there’s ports on the tip end, too:

When the barrel is unscrewed in the middle, the insides reveal a coil of wire that loops around a central core and, at the end, emerges through the tip:

Although there’s rust on most of the wire, at the end there’s no corrosion, revealing that the wire is made of copper:

So what on earth is this thing? The primary factor that tipped me in favor of splurging on this one was the paperwork that accompanied Dale’s contraption, which answered that very question:

The Lodi Electric Marking Pencil worked by connecting a live wire to the screw at the top and "writing" on a metal surface with the copper wire. Although my example says only that it was made in Lodi, California, I found another that had a complete address on the end of the box:

615 West Church Street, Lodi, California. The example I got from Dale also included what appears to be the original sales slip; although I’m not able to make out exactly what most of this says, the clear date – June 2, 1954 – seems about right:

Dale also included a copy of an advertisement that he’d found for the Lodi Marking Pencil:

Note that on the example pictured, the connector is on the side rather than the end of the barrel.
So is this thing a pencil? Well, it contains a solid substance that is consumed as it is grated against another surface, leaving traces of it behind on that surface – just like the non-metallic composition of graphite and clay we ironically call "lead."

And mechanically, there’s something else here that has me calling this contraption a pencil. Hmmm... an upper barrel containing a fixed rod, with a fixed quantity of writing material that is exposed as the lower barrel is screwed upwards into the upper barrel. Sound familiar?

It’s an Eagle Simplex!

1 comment:

Retired Guy said...

I have one of these from my father. The 6v transformer is included. I have used this for it's intended purpose of marking IDs on my tools or other metal items. The carbide tip burns the metal as it arcs.